Catch up on our work so far by reading through our archive of newsletters here. Scotland the Bread is an innovative social business, owned by its members. With collaborators across the UK and beyond, we are part of… Read More
Scotland The Bread is a collaborative project to establish a Scottish flour and bread supply that is healthy, equitable, locally controlled and sustainable. Our idea is simple – grow nutritious wheat and bake it properly close to… Read More
Advice and recipes for getting the best out of our unique wheat varieties Scotland The Bread flour comes from varieties that were once used to make much of the country’s daily wheaten bread. So it’s not true, as some… Read More
Soil To Slice is a participation project that runs alongside the crop research and the locally-controlled production of a grain and flour supply.
In 2015, with support from the A Team Foundation, the Funding Enlightened Agriculture group and more than a hundred people who pledged more than £6,000 to a crowdfunding campaign, Bread Matters started the Soil To Slice citizen science project with the purpose of helping local communities to grow and bake their own healthy bread, from the soil to the slice.
Scotland The Bread provides each group with:
Seed from three of the Scottish heritage wheat varieties in Scotland The Bread’s research project — and support each community group through a year of growing, milling and baking.
Small-scale equipment to sow and then to thresh, clean and mill the home-grown grains.
Training and support for groups to host their own breadmaking session using their home-grown wheat.
Advice at each stage, from sowing to baking, and collates the findings from each of the groups.
In April 2016, the new Bread For Good Community Benefit Society (trading as Scotland The Bread) took over Soil To Slice. In May, the first Soil To Slice community growers gathered to share their experiences of growing heritage wheat, hear an update on Scotland The Bread’s nutrient research and get a little hands-on experience baking with some of the heritage flour. Read our blog post about the event.
Who is involved?
Granton Community Gardeners is a grassroots group of local residents in Edinburgh. They grow food on street corners, encourage gardening and host meals. The urban garden is spread across nine small patches of land. In autumn 2015, Granton sowed Scotland The Bread’s trial wheats (Rouge d’Ecosse, Golden Drop and Hunters) on 35 square metre plots, from which they harvested 42 kg of grain. Community groups in Glasgow (Locavore and the Concrete Garden) grew the same wheats.In 2016 Granton sowed 100 square metres of wheat; both years this was threshed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival (see below). Read our case study on Granton Community Gardeners’ Soil To Slice experience here. During Spring 2016, the Edible Gardening Project in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith Allotments joined the Soil To Slice project. Cyrenians Community Garden at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, the 2000m2 project at Whitmuir Farm and Pilton Community Gardens with North Edinburgh Arts sowed their first crop in autumn 2016.
Harvest and Threshing 2016
All of the community-grown grain was harvested during September 2016 and 2017. Some groups had very small samples, which could be threshed by hand. Three groups threshed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival event.
Threshing #soiltoslice 2016 from Andrew Whitley on Vimeo.
The threshing machine was commissioned from a UK company that usually exports machinery of this scale to Africa. Technology of the appropriate scale is an essential part of developing a fair-trade, locally-controlled short supply chain.
Everyone who contributed to the crowdfunding in 2015, including all the bakers who joined in the ‘dough-sharing’, has played a part in providing the equipment and making this happen.
Fermenting Good Ideas
Growing grain on this small scale in urban plots isn’t going to create a viable supply of flour for any community, (although it’s worth remembering that a plot of just eight by ten metres can produce enough wheat to make bread for one person for a full year).
However, even a tiny patch of wheat can change the way we think of our growing spaces and their connection with our food.
Abundant possibilities spring up when we are invited to re-imagine the way we ‘do’ bread and to formulate ideas to suit our unique, local circumstance. Possibilities such as: a community-scale micro-bakery to serve a school, a clinic or a care home; a peri-urban farm to supply freshly-milled flour to a local food network; a community to share its breadmaking skills and varied cultural traditions, creating real jobs in meaningful work as it does so; a local authority or NHS Trust to give nourishing bread a central place in its public procurement…
To celebrate the start of Real Bread Week (February 24 – March 4), a number of our Soil to Slice groups gathered on Sunday 25 February at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Botanic Cottage to talk yields, baking inspiration, milling and new season sowing.
Kicking off the introductions over sticky Chelsea buns (made with Rouge d’Ecosse grain milled the previous night in Granton Community Baker Charlie’s coffee grinder) were representatives from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Edible Gardening Project, The Cyrenians, Granton Community Gardeners (GCG) and Friends of Granton Castle Walled Garden (FGCWG).
Hosted in partnership with the BigPicnic, both initiatives have at their heart a concern for food security: Soil to Slice projects are essential demonstrations of the impact of small-scale planting. On their own they couldn’t feed Scotland, but if just a sixth of the land currently devoted for wheat growing was used for bread wheat, Scotland’s organic flour supply would be secure. These plots are also hugely engaging for a public now almost entirely divorced from the production of one of our staple dietary ingredients, as these testimonies show.
A number of common themes arose from the groups’ presentations, from practical issues concerned with late planting and ideal grain storage conditions, to questions and suggestions over public engagement and ensuring the plots were effectively signposted.
Tom Kirby, Granton Community Gardeners: ‘This project is slow motion community theatre that changes the way people think about the land. Walking down the street with bundles of straw, cars slow down as they pass us; people stop to ask what we’re doing.’
GCG’s first year’s yield in 2016 was the equivalent of 4.2 tonnes/hectare – a very good organic showing.
As well as the valuable flour, they have had lots of demand for the wheat straw. Commercially-grown wheat has very short straw which is, in any case, mangled in the combine harvester (and sometimes simply chopped and left on the ground), so getting hold of long straight stalks for making beehives and baskets is hard. A circular economy is growing up: lend a hand with growing the wheat in return for some straw.
GCG are currently waiting for a new, larger wheat plot to become available, hopefully in time to sow spring wheat.
Read our case study of GCG here.Suggestions arose for skills sharing and future activities: a scything workshop for Soil to Slice participants with demonstration for the general public; sharing the bicycle-powered mill that GCG successfully used with their first harvest; shared baking sessions, equipment and potentially storage facilities; school engagement on the citizen science side of the projects.Andy Crofts, the Edible Gardening Project and the BigPicnic: ‘We get a huge number of visitors to our site at the RBGE, so plan to focus on the more experimental grains such as emmer, spelt and old oat varieties, buying in the three Scotland The Bread flour varieties for our baking. In 2017 we grew the seeds we saved from our first crop of Swedish white and brown, as well as emmer, spelt and barley. People loved the threshing day: one of the major positives of Soil to Slice is that it has been really good for engaging the public.’
Andrew Whitley, co-founder of Scotland The Bread, covered some of the benefits of Soil to Slice’s return to traditional landraces, as well as organic and low-intensity growing methods: increased nutritional value of the resulting flour, as well as the potential for addressing the modern rise in intolerance to gluten. A selective, evolutionary breeding approach can address the loss of diversity in modern bread and farming: diversity as a broad concept, for the grain gene, as well as beneficial diversity in the bacterial qualities of the soil and the human. This can be summed up by a line from a talk Andrew gave in September 2016, Rediscovering Wheat Diversity for the Public Good: ‘A new approach is desperately needed, one which has human health as its goal, harmony with the biosphere as its operating principle and equity as its moral compass.’The Cyrenians’ Soil to Slice plots can be found at the Royal Edinburgh Community Gardens, in the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. After hearing about the project at the ‘Power of Food Festival’ AGM, delegates visited Macbiehill Agroforestry and quickly became very engaged. They grew their first wheat in the 2016-17 season and are just beginning to bake with the milled flour: an outdoor cob oven is very popular at these events, and has been used to bake sourdough loaves that individuals have made and proven at home, as well as cheese scones and sourdough pizza made with Scotland The Bread Rouge d’Ecosse wheat.
The Royal Edinburgh is a psychiatric hospital, and around the core team of Soil to Slice volunteers are a number of people coming to the project at transition points in their lives. The gathering heard of the difference the project has made to patients, even prompting engagement with long-term patients for whom interaction is particularly difficult. The sight of a traditional winnowing basket in use sparked a rare discussion with one patient, enabling a personal conversation to take place at a critical point. The garden is even becoming part of a cure for those who can’t make it outside: the team are increasingly making visits to wards within the hospital, with the long wheat straw an interesting jump-off point for discussion and crafts.
‘We were all very surprised at how tall the wheat was. Most of us engaged with the project are very new to horticulture, so to see wheat up close is quite a thing.’ Rachel HelmsAndrew gave a number of tips for using these heritage flours in baking: the key is to step away from the modern picture of a tall, uniform loaf and embrace liberated dough! Think ciabatta, baguettes, flatbreads, pizza and beautiful rounded loaves. Read more advice and find some tried-and-tested recipes here.
The newest group to join Soil to Slice is Friends of Granton Castle Walled Garden, who are about to sow Hunter’s and Rouge d’Ecosse wheats in their medieval walled garden. Having successfully campaigned for this slice of history to be saved from development, the volunteers at FGCWG are set to start work preserving horticultural heritage this season. Founder Kirsty Sutherland has previously grown Scotland The Bread’s historic wheats at Pilton Community Garden, and the plots will be an engaging talking point on the Friends’ ‘hidden gem’ monthly tours.
Gorgie City Farm sent an update in their absence, detailing six events based around their Soil to Slice project. These ranged from a community sowing event to drop-in sessions for pre-schoolers based on Julia Donaldson’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding, in which the children dressed scarecrows made at a previous event and harvested wheat. Thirteen harvest workshops saw 158 primary-aged school pupils help to harvest and mill wheat and make flatbreads; 35 nursery age pupils attended workshops focusing on the story of the Little Red Hen, in which they harvested wheat and milled it into flour; and a ‘Fork to Fork’ harvesting and cooking session was hosted for eight City Farm volunteers with special needs – the group harvested food and wheat from the garden, and cooked and ate a meal together.
We are enjoying being kept busy at Macbiehill Farmhouse milling Scotland The Bread’s heritage flours – more than three quarters of a ton, as of January 2018. In November we launched three varieties of flour from wheat landraces that were common in Scotland in the 19th century – Rouge d’Ecosse, Golden Drop and Hunter’s.
We are somewhat overwhelmed by the feedback we’ve been receiving: images of handsome loaves accompanied by tasting notes that show we are not biased after all. One customer wrote with the following story:
‘My wife and her brother, as children in Ayrshire, always looked forward to visiting an old boy in Kilbirnie because his scones were unsurpassed for flavour. Up to today [>50 years] she has never tasted anything to compare. But today ….. even with my limited baking skills … the flavour of the girdle scones with Hunter flour took her right back to those days in Kilbirnie. In all these years she had never tasted anything to compare with your Hunter’s flour. It really impacted on her … and she is away to tell her brother!‘Now all my project trainees will be able to experience real bread with all its health benefits.’
We sent samples to some of our most trusted artisanal bakers, and have collated the first of their feedback here, including tips and tasting notes. We welcome your feedback, questions and comments: do send them over.
A new way of milling
This flour has been milled for maximum nutrient retention on an innovative ‘cyclone’ mill called a Zentrofan. It’s a slow, small-scale process that reduces the grain to fine particles without either heating it up by excessive abrasion (as can happen with stone milling) or stripping it of its vital nutrients (which is the main effect of producing white flour on industrial roller mills). There is more detail about the mill and how it works here.
Heritage grain for modern problems
These heritage wheats are more than a historical curiosity. Their superior nutritional profile and their suitability for agro-ecological farming make them a good starting point in our quest to select and develop bread grains that grow well in Scottish soils and can nourish healthy citizens while providing local farmers with a fair and reliable return.
We have to thank Andy Forbes of Brockwell Bake Association in London for scouring gene banks round the world for tiny samples (typically 10 grams or less) of ‘accessions’ bearing the name of Rouge d’Ecosse. He also identified Golden Drop and Hunter’s as plausible ‘Scottish’ heritage grains.
Find more information about our three heritage wheats on our website here.
Baking with heritage flour
This flour is special. Apart from its above-average mineral content, it has:
a full, satisfying flavour without the dry dustiness of some wholemeals
gluten that is naturally softer, less stretchy and more extensible (and arguably more digestible) than in common breadmaking flours
Top tips for getting good results:
Knead the dough gently and for less time than you have to when using a ‘strong’ flour
Be patient and ferment your bread slowly (using sourdough) to develop flavour and digestibility
If you’re struggling to get a longed-for lightness, sieve the flour to remove some of the bran or add a portion (up to 25%) of a ‘strong’ flour
You will find more baking advice and recipes here, including:
some quick tips to get you started with the flour
general words about the character of Scottish heritage flour and how to adjust your baking to get the best from it
When crowded calendars demand our attention and we are engrossed in working towards the next big goal, it can be easy to lose sight of the milestones that have already been passed. To celebrate the dawn of 2018 and the completion of some long to-do lists, Director Clare Fennell cast her eye back over Scotland The Bread’s progress so far:
1) Our June 2016 share offer secured more than £30,000 in shares, allowing us to draw down loans and grants for essential working capital. The Bread For Good Community Benefit Society is now (01 Feb 2018) made up of 187 members .
2) Mineral testing has shown that our grain varieties do indeed contain higher levels of several key minerals than UK reference values.
3) In June 2017 we launched the Scottish Bread Championships at the Royal Highland Show, resulting in:
More than fifty entries
Fantastic winners, who by chance were showcasing Scottish flour
Our well-informed judging panel were engaged and impressed with the entries
A great chance for us to engage with the farming community
4) Scotland The Bread’s heritage flours were launched in November 2017, attracting enough interest to prove that fresh, nutritious, locally sourced flour is important to many bakers, both commercial and domestic, and to keep the mill very busy!
5) We have continued to build collaborations with academics at the James Hutton Institute, Rowett Institute, SRUC and the Organic Research Centre on broad subjects covering grain, soil, agronomy, climate & agriculture, rural economies and health.
Though we were disappointed not to secure research funding through the Knowledge Transfer & Innovation Fund, we expect to seek other funding to further this agenda in due course.
6) Our Soil to Slice project continues to be a successful avenue for community engagement, through the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a number of community groups in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
To mark the launch of our heritage flours, we sent samples to some of our most trusted bakers to gain valuable feedback. The flour is softer than normal breadmaking flour (we have written a list of tips and advice on handling it for best results here), so it was important to us to hear how it performed for other bakers. The first words are coming back from these test bakes, and they are both useful and hugely encouraging. We think these flours produce delicious results, and it is gratifying to read that some of the most experienced sourdough enthusiasts in the UK think so as well. Read on for their experiences, tips and flavour profiles.
Baikhous – Reserve Champion and Gold Award winner, Scottish Bread Championships
‘I have dished out sample baiks to some of the chefs already using our sourdough, as well as some family. All feedback chimed with my own thoughts – really exceptional flavour qualities for a wholemeal bread. In particular, none of the aftertaste that can be prevalent in some brown breads.
‘From a baking perspective, I noticed a few things. For the home baker, I would advocate use of tins and a preferment to get the best out of the flour. Baskets will always be my preference but it will take some tweaking to nail the timings for best results and this was the first run. The addition of some strong bread flour to the tune of 20/25% might also allow them to build confidence in the dough before attempting a full wholemeal as the gluten structure is certainly quite delicate.
‘The only ingredients I used were fully Scottish as always and amounted to the heritage flour, water and salt. The dough was fuelled by some Baikhous starter that was fed up overnight along with the bran from the Rouge d’Ecosse. I would be intrigued to see how it behaves with a little malt added next time. The flavour was tremendous but I know there is more potential to the crumb. That said, I am happy with the outcome for a 100% wholemeal and there is nothing dense or gummy to the bite.’
facebook.com/baikhous Sarah Raisbeck, Baker and World Bread Awards Winner
‘I treated it almost the same as when I make my stoneground 100% wholemeals. I did 100% wholemeal Rouge d’Ecosse, 85% water and salt. I retarded over night in the fridge as I do with all my sourdough.
‘I found it quite a weak dough and by the time I got to final shaping I felt I had to put it in a tin rather than a banneton, otherwise I may have a pancake when I baked it. They did rise almost double from when I put them in the tin and had a good oven spring. For a wholemeal I feel they have a very good crumb.I have 1kg left so I will make again and reduce the water a bit and perhaps put 20% white in. With more practice with this flour I could get better results, but for a first time I’m pleased.
‘The taste is delicious, very rounded, wholesome, a chewy very moorish crumb and the colour on the loaf is very golden.’
sarahraisbeck.co.ukKatia Lebart, The Wee Boulangerie – Bronze Award winner, Scottish Bread Championships
‘We have made a first trial with the flour: a sourdough with 75% Rouge D’Ecosse.
‘First, I was surprised by the properties of the flour. I was poised for much more trouble, but it is actually quite a strong flour, though it does relax very easily – so banetton proofing felt like a wise choice.
‘Second, it was really absolutely delicious – the breadth of flavours from the flour took everyone aback – including my kids who scoffed a full 800g loaf that evening.
‘We are now giving the flour some rest time to see what changes that makes.’
After five years’ work in growing and research, social business Scotland The Bread has released for sale Scotland’s first ever nutrient-dense heritage flour.
More than 900,000 tonnes of wheat was grown in Scotland in 2017, enough to make all the bread we consume six times over. Instead, grain was imported to mill for breadmaking flour, using the home-grown crop as animal feed, biofuel and to make alcohol.
Scotland The Bread is a project working to establish a Scottish flour and bread supply that is healthy, equitable, locally controlled and sustainable. Based on an organic farm in the Scottish Borders, Scotland The Bread conducts research into the nutrient content of a range of breadmaking grains and supports community groups to grow and mill their own grain to bake with.
The project has stocks of three 19th century Scottish wheat varieties that have been bulked up over the past five years from tiny samples in gene banks round the world (see below for details of each). Having successfully completed growing trials and conducted research that shows these heritage grains have higher levels of several important minerals than ordinary flour, Scotland The Bread is now able to sell fresh, wholemeal flour ground from Scottish heritage wheat. Home and community bakers can purchase this from their online shop.
In addition to committing to high-nutrient grains, Scotland The Bread is trialling a radical new way of producing this wholemeal flour using innovative milling technology. This decentralises flour production while conserving nutrients that are wastefully discarded in conventional systems. Further, years of expertise in handling softer, lower-gluten grain (without additives and processing aids) will be communicated in recipes, techniques and baking methods that explain both why the grains are so good (for the digestion as much as the biosphere) and how to get the best out of them.
Our heritage wheats:Rouge d’Ecosse: this wheat was imported from Eastern Scotland in the 1800s by the French seedsman Vilmorin, who gave it the name by which it has been known ever since. It is probably descended from the ancient British landrace Blood Red. This flour has already boarded the Ark of Taste, the international project created by Slow Food to save foods at risk of extinction.
Golden Drop: this brown winter wheat was widely grown in Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and is possibly a synonym for Rouge d’Ecosse. It is probably descended from the ancient British landrace Blood Red.
Hunter’s: this light coloured wheat became a favourite of farmers, millers and bakers alike. It is descended from a single plant found around 1810 by Mr Hunter of Dunbar growing by the wayside of Coldingham Muir in Berwickshire.
More about Scotland The Bread
An innovative social business setting a whole new agenda for cereal research and public health, the project started in 2012 under the wing of Bread Matters, and is run by Real Bread Campaign co-founder Andrew Whitley and his wife Veronica Burke. A successful community share offer allowed the Bread For Good Community Benefit Society to launch in April 2016, trading under the name ‘Scotland The Bread’. Its members are working to re-establish a supply of nutritious Scottish-grown grain, milled close to home and used to make wholesome, slowly-fermented bread that everyone can enjoy.
Scotland The Bread offers anyone the opportunity to become a member of the Society by buying shares or signing up as a supporter for priority updates. See below for a special seasonal offer on membership.
Credited with leading the UK’s revival in artisan baking, Andrew Whitley first gained recognition in the 1970s as founder of the organic Village Bakery in Cumbria, where he used English wheat and wood-fired ovens. In 2002 he took an MSc in Food Policy at City University London, and since 2010 has been based on five acres of organic agroforestry at Macbiehill in the Scottish Borders.
In 2008 Andrew co-founded the UK’s Real Bread Campaign, and in 2011 received the Special Judges’ Award at the BBC Food & Farming Awards for ‘changing the way we think about bread’. He is the author of Bread Matters (Fourth Estate, 2006/2009) and of DO Sourdough (2014), and is a former vice-chair of the Soil Association.
Special Membership Offer: during winter 2017-18, if you spend £75 or more on shares in Bread for Good Community Benefit Society (instead of a minimum £100), you will be entitled to a £20 voucher to spend on freshly milled heritage wheat flour or grain or a stone mill to grind your own.
The Granton Community Garden project has been running since 2010, started on a budget of £10 and a patch of previously waste land on a street corner. In the past seven years it has expanded to include nine street corner plots throughout the area, tended by around 70 core volunteers and many more occasional helpers. Regular community meals are held using the garden’s produce, and a bread club brings people together to practice their sourdough-baking skills. The community group is also an active member of Scotland The Bread’s Soil To Slice project, and for the past two seasons has planted 100 sq.m. of winter wheat. We asked Granton Community Gardener Tom Kirby to tell their Soil to Slice story.
It started with a group visit to Whitmuir Farm and then over the road to Macbiehill’s organic agro-forestry project [where Scotland The Bread is based], where about twelve of us were shown around the trial plots of Scotland The Bread wheat. People were really interested, and the obvious question was: “Can we have some seeds for our garden?” When we heard about Soil to Slice we thought it was perfect – different aspects of the project appealed to different people; for some it was simply how beautiful the growing wheat looked.
We have grown two seasons of winter wheat now, the first planted in November 2015. About 100 square meters have been planted each season on communally-run plots on public street corners. We harvested 42kg of grain in the first year, and slightly more than 20kg this year, which we threshed as part of demonstrations at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival.
At the moment the bags of grain are drying in my flat – we need a barn! Someone we know has designed and built a pedal-powered mill, and we will use that to mill some to encourage community interaction. The rest of the grain will be milled at Macbiehill Farmhouse, saving a load to plant for next year’s crop.
We run a bread club on an informal, ad hoc basis, and that’s where most of the flour will get used. Two of us came to Macbiehill to do a one-day Bread Matters course, and from there we wanted to get into the habit of baking regularly so set up a baking practice group. We distribute the bread among people who have been involved in growing the wheat, and also use it in our community meals. This year we’ll also be taking a wee bit into the local primary school at the request of one of the teachers; it is all eaten locally.
Being part of Soil To Slice is great for growing support and for access to the processing equipment. One of the main things I’ve learnt is that growing wheat is easy but processing it is hard, and I can see why it has become a highly mechanised agribusiness. Working with Soil To Slice has made the whole thing far more feasible than it would otherwise have been.
All the things we hoped for – that it would catch people’s imagination to eat bread made from wheat grown locally – have happened. It shows what you can do with bits of waste ground. We don’t have massive expansion plans; we want to keep production to a manageable quantity. However hopefully we will soon get a big new site which we will use an area of for wheat growing.
I feel bread is symbolic of lots of other things within community and culture; it’s good on lots of levels and we try to involve as many local people as possible, including children. Growing, processing, baking and eating it is great as a community education project, and speaking personally it has changed my perception of the bread I eat.
firstname.lastname@example.orgAll photos credit Granton Community Gardeners